16 Life Rules We Learned From Our Dad

13116019_10154018030856023_7599686138579028310_oToday we held a celebration service to honor my Dad who passed away this past Sunday. My Dad was never one for “mushiness” so we wanted to share something that would communicate his character and values, while also reflecting his sense of humor. We will always be thankful for what he taught us.

The following is what we presented to those who attended.

  1. Working hard is the path to success in life. Don’t expect anyone to give you something you have not earned. Laziness is for losers.
  2. Complaining is a waste of breath and frankly, annoying to those you have to listen to you whine. Keep doing the right thing and, in general, right things will happen for you.
  3. Life is full of curve balls. If you feel like complaining, reference #2 again. After getting hit with a curve, whether it be illness or injury, loss or disappointment or your house burning down, keep moving. Set a goal of overcoming that obstacle and run it down until it’s a distant memory. Curve balls do not define you but giving up will.
  4. Corny jokes make the world a better place. Throw in a cheesy pun or two and you’ve got a party. Never ever pull anyone’s finger, even if invited to do so. And whatever you do, never get your mords wixed.
  5. Make right decisions even when no one will know the difference. Even when it’s not popular. Even if it costs you something.
  6. 10733716_10152811489418213_7551276200127304080_o (1)Live life to the full. Don’t waste even a single day. Make the most of what you have been given. See every museum, scenic view and road less traveled that crosses your path. Take a picture of it so you can remember it later. Randomly pull over to the side of the road and send your kids out into the ocean waves just because the lighting is just right for the perfect photo. After all, the photo will last forever, and you can always hold their pants out the car window to let them dry.
  7. Never be late for anything. If you are 15 minutes early, you are still late.
  8. Family is a blessing not a burden. Your check book and calendar should reflect that philosophy. Take stock of both of them often and make adjustments, when needed.
  9. Take responsibility for your commitments, even if someone else makes the mistake. That means when the newspaper company doesn’t provide you enough papers for your paper route, you go to the store and buy more papers with your own money so all your customers still receive their morning paper. By the way, you should run to the store even in the pouring rain, because their paper must not be late.
  10. Never ever purchase a new house or one already renovated. Making a home starts with ripping out what the last guy thought was a good idea and starting over. It is mandatory to point out the previous guy didn’t know what he was doing at least once every hour during renovations.
  11. Camping is highly preferred over the Holiday Inn. For one, it’s cheaper and, most importantly, you can’t make a morning campfire breakfast of folded over toast stuffed with raspberry preserves and bacon at the Holiday Inn.
  12. The key to every room’s decorating success is lots and lots of mirrors. Mirrors make the smallest room look larger and remind you to keep your hair combed. If a wall is in the wrong place, knock it down. If you need a wall, build one. This strategy is also useful when applied to life situations.
  13. Teamwork is important. This is especially true when your brother chases you with a TV tray and accidentally tears off a strip of wallpaper. You never saw two kids work together so well than when we surgically removed a piece of wallpaper from behind the sofa, cut it to the exact pattern and glue it exactly in place. We let him in on our secret here recently roughly 35 years later.
  14. If you don’t use something inside a 3 month period, it will be sold at an auction, a garage sale or an online trading site. You will not be told this has happened until you notice that it is missing.
  15. Drinking tea is just a really good excuse to eat a cookie.
  16. Jesus is the reason for the season. We say Merry Christmas. Easter is not about bunnies and chocolate. It’s a relationship not a religion. Faith without works is dead. And because He lives we can face tomorrow. Because He lives all fear is gone. Because we know He holds the future. And life is worth the living because we know He lives. And knowing this, our Dad lived his life well.
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What I failed to teach my kids and why it matters.

I took my responsibility to raise my kids to be good human beings very seriously.  I taught them to be kind and forgive others who were not. To pray and have faith that God would draw someone’s heart to Him.  That everyone makes mistakes but it’s never too late to start making good choices. That God loves everyone and so should they. That it was wrong to judge others for their faults.

But I missed teaching them something important…

ImageNot everyone is safe. There are those that are so wounded by life and experience that they will ultimately destroy those that try to love or help them.

Now I watch my children as adults try to navigate this sometimes cruel world with their hearts of gold and the best of intentions. And I am afraid for them.

I now wish I had taught them that it’s ok to walk away. That you can forgive someone from a distance without attempting to reconcile. That sometimes people are too dangerous to keep close and they need to be let go. That life is not black and white but shades of complicated gray… and colors we may not even recognize. That the gift of family that God gives us should be cherished and protected from anyone or anything that is destructive.

And so now I am left to pray that they learn when to walk away before experiencing the harsh consequences of being kind and forgiving without the balance of wise boundaries to keep them from harm.

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A reminder of why Moms are a blessing… at any age.

I was one of those kids that could make a mother reconsider having any more offspring.  I was just born opinionated, stubborn, and strong-willed.

Fortunately for me I was blessed with a mother who was none of those things. Her personification of grace, mercy, and compassion is what inspires me to this day to be a better wife and mother.

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I’m certain I didn’t appreciate her amazing qualities as a child other than to recognize that there were times her grace was the only reason I was still breathing.  As a mother who has faced some pretty tough challenges with my own children, I have come to the conclusion that my mom is a saint.

I also know that, even though I am no longer a child, she has never stopped being my mom.  During one particularly dark time as I went through my divorce, I felt so very alone and unloved. On one particularly discouraging day, I was surprised by a package that arrived in the mail. It was a stuffed bear and the card read “Bethany, I gave this bear 10 good hugs to send to you. Love & Kisses, Mom.”

That was almost 8 years ago but I keep that bear where I can see it every day as a simple reminder of how even the simplest of gestures can make a difference in someone’s life.

Mom, thank you for being such a great model for this opinionated, stubborn, and strong-willed child to follow.  I have tried hard to love my children like you loved me. And while I have not always done so perfectly, I’m blessed to have had your example to guide me.

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How much does the right to choose cost?

There are just some things in this world that will never make sense to me. Abortion is one of them. I really don’t believe it should be a religious debate though many stand solely on their faith as a reason to oppose it. It is not a personal preference though with moral relativism the code of the day there are those that hold adamantly to their “right to choose.”

Now I know some are reading this who represent both sides of the issue. Some might say that I haven’t addressed the “emotional” aspects of the issue but that’s intentional. I think it’s time we stopped being emotional and started using some common sense.

I think most everyone can agree, whether religious or not, that “thou shalt not kill” is a good rule for society to respect. Historically, the position for or against abortion centered on the disagreement of when life begins, and as a consequence when it becomes wrong to end the life of child.  A dangerous and blurry line to be sure.  Even more dangerous when you consider that it becomes a flexible line depending on the whim of society.

When we decide that morals are not absolutes, we begin a journey down a slippery slope from which it is difficult if ever to recover.  Without something to guide us, our morals simply become whatever our desires and emotions drive us toward.  We protest the mistreated of animals, we regulate and encourage recycling to protect the planet, yet we have decided it is acceptable to kill our own.

We didn’t decide to kill babies overnight. The path to abortion has been an emotional and divisive one. Abortion has become an accepted practice because of our emotions tied to the consequence of an unwanted pregnancy.  Society wants to “fix” the problem and “help” women.  If we tell ourselves enough times that a fetus is just a blog of tissue, eventually enough people will believe it – especially those who feel desperate and unprepared to have a baby. And besides, abortions are going to happen anyway so we might as well ensure the safety of the mother with regulations and laws, right?

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Unborn baby at 12 weeks – a “blog of tissue?”

The Big Lie #1 – a fetus is just a blog of tissue until 12 weeks.

Regardless of the situation – right or wrong, you can always find someone who is being oppressed, hurt, or traumatized. If it’s compelling enough, you could convince people that doing something wrong is actually OK because it accomplishes a greater good.  And so, we have set out to “fix” the problem for more women by performing abortions later than 12 weeks if the mother could be harmed (physically or mentally) such as in the case of rape.

The Big Lie #2 – an unborn baby’s life whatever their age is not as important as the “rights” of the living.

Now that we’ve grown comfortable with ending the life of the unborn, society is then preyed upon by the greedy who wish to monetize on this direction. Abortions clinics target young girls and manipulate them for the sole purpose of making money. Low dose birth control pills and cheap condoms are distributed throughout high schools in the name of “safe sex” campaigns which lead to more teenage pregnancies. Clinics are opened at a rapid rate to fill the growing need to end the “problems” quietly and discreetly.

The Big Lie #3 – an unborn baby can be killed as long as it is not “viable.”

Soon the line is moved once again with partial birth abortions. Standing on viability as the measurement upon which “life begins,” a doctor will pull out the baby’s lower body and jam scissors to the base of the skull and suck out the brains through the hole while the head remains inside.  After all, it is not viable since it has not taken its first breath. Fortunately the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act was passed in 2003. Though it is frightening to me that we needed to ban such practices in the first place.

The Big Lie #4 – even a baby born alive is not viable because it cannot survive without someone to care for it.

Now the industry is opening stating their position that a baby born alive can be either left to die or killed by the physician. The avoidance of the direct question on what they do now in the above video speaks volumes. I can’t even imagine the rationale for this one.  The abortion industry is so accustomed to killing and death that they have simply lost their humanity.

And, because we do not stop them, I fear so shall we.

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Time to have a talk with yourself?

Had a tough WOD (Work Out Of The Day) at my CrossFit gym yesterday… very tough. In fact, I was the only female in the gym who finished it RX (“As prescribed”).  The task was 5 rounds of 15 deadlifts, 12 hang cleans, 9 push presses, and 3 overhead squats… all at 105lbs! This is extremely heavy weight for all lifts except the deadlifts and especially heavy for overhead squats.  At about my halfway point, the coach found me just standing staring at the barbell and asked me what I was doing. I looked up at him panting and sweating and said, “having a talk with myself.”

Those times that I stepped up to the bar for yet another overhead squat and I was thinking about how heavy the bar is, how tired my arms are, and what if I drop the thing on my head, my lift failed with the bar flying one direction and my body landing in a heap in another.  However, when I approached the bar with determination, with the belief that I can do it one more time, and those around me yelled their conviction of the same, the outcome was a successful lift.

Isn’t that kind of like life? At times life gets tough… overwhelmingly so and we end up standing there staring at what confronts us with our minds racing with fear and anxiety of the unknown. It’s at those times we need to have a talk with ourselves.

Life is full of battles. Cancer. Divorce. Loss. And in those dark moments we wonder if we have what it takes to fight to the end, unsure if we can finish when all we want to do is sit down and quit. Instead of allowing fear to overtake us, we instead need to choose determination. Instead of accepting that the task is too hard, we must keep putting one foot in front of the other and focus on just the next step. Instead of giving up and quitting, we can turn to the encouragement of those who love us and keep moving because their belief in us will drive us forward.

My toughest moment yesterday came when I was almost finished. With only 3 overhead squats to go my mind and body hit a wall. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to cry or throw up.  My talk with myself went something like mother scolding a child, “You can’t quit now.  You are almost there. Set your mind right and pick up that bar. Do just one and then we’ll worry about the next one. You didn’t work this hard and come this far to quit on yourself right at the end.” Then I threw in a little “Get mad at the bar and kick its butt” just for good measure.

Life’s greatest miracles often come just after we are ready to quit. For those of you who are facing one of life’s tough challenges… keep going.  You are stronger than you know.

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Ditching the diets and finding myself instead.

A photo with Mike Weaver, lead singer for
Big Daddy Weave. I think we were the same
size. I was 35 years old.

My journey to health and fitness was not as simple as changing my diet and starting an exercise regimen. The reasons for my weight struggle are not merely a lack of discipline, laziness, or whatever it is that the “lifers” in the fitness world would like to think.

I don’t feel that this is the place for my life story. It’s boring.  I will just say that my life has seen more than its share of challenges and personal trials.  Most of my adult years have included a high level of negative stress, personal responsibilities that left me drained and exhausted, and an idea that I was making sacrifices for “a season” and “someday” I would have time for me.

If I have a single regret it is that I didn’t love myself enough to make my health a priority. I regret that I didn’t model a healthy lifestyle for my children when they were young.  I regret every time I sat on the sidelines because I was too sick, too tired, too overweight, or just plain afraid of hurting myself. How much of my life did I miss out on living that I will never be able to get back?

I wish I could say that I just had an epiphany one day and saw the error of my ways.  With the combination of stress, poor eating, no exercise, too much weight, etc, my body soon starting telling me I was going to have to make changes… or else.  The details are not pretty, so I’m taking creative license and just not including them.

I tried numerous diets with some success but the weight always came back. I’d starve myself… it would come back anyway. I felt helpless. I felt like I couldn’t control my own body.  I got advice from those “lifers” I referenced earlier. Surely they would know what I’m doing wrong.  However, I didn’t find suggestions as “just run 10 miles a day” or “stop eating so many carbs” very helpful. I had done the diets… they didn’t work. And I was pretty sure that they wouldn’t be running 10 miles a day if they had to carry a 100lb backpack (which is how much extra weight I had).

I started by doing another diet. I lost 40lbs. I knew it was going to come back so I started working with a personal trainer.  But then I started gaining again just like before and I was panicked. My personal trainer explained that my weight coming back was called a “reverse.”  He showed me how my diet was actually causing the problem. I wasn’t eating enough. Wait… what?

Apparently depriving your body of needed calories is not healthy.  Losing 20lbs a month is too much too fast.  It scared me to eat more but I tried to find the right balance. I felt so impatient. I was working so hard. I was sacrificing all the foods I liked to eat. And the weight loss was SO slow or wasn’t happening at all.

Warming up at CrossFit.

Then I found CrossFit and I discovered the missing link to my mental battle for weight loss. It wasn’t about the number on the scale. It was about building a strong and healthy body so that I could better LIVE my life. So I could stop being a spectator and become a participant. So I could face my fears head on before running right over them.  My focus on my weight was blinding me to what was truly important… my overall health.

Soon after starting CrossFit, I ditched the diets and embraced the Paleo Lifestyle.  While most consider it to be “radical” (I did at first too), I really couldn’t argue with the results. Funny thing happens when you “clean up” your diet… your body works better, fights and resists illness, and ultimately stabilizes your weight.

My health and fitness journey is no longer seen as a short trip but rather a never-ending adventure meant to be enjoyed. I’m working every day to become the best possible version of me that I can be.  I have not perfectly mastered my demons. I still get on the scale and obsess on the number though I know I shouldn’t. I still wish I could eat a large bowl of Pralines & Cream every night… and sometimes I treat myself.

The difference is that my temporary “diet” has become a permanent lifestyle.  Instead of wondering if I’ll be around to watch my grandkids grow up, I’m learning how to scuba dive and knee board. Instead of battling allergies, IBS, skin irritations, migraines, and joint pain, I’m getting a kick out of beating my PRs (personal records) in the gym. My husband and I recently had a discussion about getting our Instructor Certification in CrossFit.  Oh, the possibilities!

Bottom line, I’m not the skinniest, youngest, or hottest in the gym and that’s ok with me. At 43 years old, I am one of the happiest in my new skin… and happy is good.

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From the human disposal to the picky eater – Ways to keep your dinner table positive.

ImageWhen my kids were younger I had little tolerance for complaining at the dinner table. With so many going hungry around the world, it upset me that my children were not more grateful for their full bellies… even if it was full of broccoli or carrots. I soon instituted a few ground rules for the dinner table that helped them “adjust” their attitudes.

  1. Check It At The Door: The only acceptable term allowed was “not keen on it.” Words such as nasty, yucky, or ewww were not permitted. Phrases such as “I ain’t eating that” or “what kind of crap is this” were also on the not permitted list.  Tongues sticking out and nose wrinkles were considered sign language for the aforementioned phrases. Those who could not contain their comments were rewarded with a second helping of whatever had caused their dismay.  Additional helpings were added on an as-needed basis and, once on the plate, the food had to be consumed in its entirety.  If not eaten at that meal, the leftovers were kindly saved until the next meal… even if that meal was breakfast.  I once had one child test my commitment to this rule… she went 6 meals without eating before she broke down and ate the food she had earned through complaining. She only tested me once… in this area anyway.
  2. The Three-Bite-Rule: Everything on the table required a minimum of three bites.
  3. The Exception: Each child was allowed to pick one food item that was excepted from the three-bite rule or for which they would be provided an alternative if it was the entire meal. For example, I had one child who chose spaghetti sauce as her exception. When we had spaghetti, she would have noodles and cheese. At age 18, she still eats her spaghetti this way.
  4. No Wasting Food. If you put it on your plate, you were expected to eat it. They were cautioned to only serve up what they could eat knowing they could get more if they wanted it. Those who didn’t finish were allowed to “sell” what was left on their plate to another child. I have personally witnessed a child “sell” the food on their plate by offering to do chores for the another child. The point was not that the food be eaten… I just wanted them to understand its value by not allowing them to waste it.
  5. Eat a Green: When we went out to eat, it was often a buffet. It was usually less expensive, the kids could pick what they wanted, and eat as much as they wanted.  My only rule here was they had to “eat a green” which meant at least one fruit or vegetable subject to the Three-Bite-Rule.  The “two-sugar-buns” per plate rule was also implemented following a trip to the Chinese buffet where it was apparently thought that 8 sugar buns and three green beans constituted a well-balanced meal.

I know what you’re thinking… those are some pretty extreme dinner table rules. Maybe for some but it worked for us. Once in place, our dinner table was peaceful. Ok, peaceful as in little or no complaining and a new appreciation for the value of food. It was still wonderfully loud and crazy.

Might I just add here that complaining is also rude and insulting to the chef (me). If you don’t like it, I don’t want to hear about the entire time I’m eating. So there.

My kids are grown so I no longer enforce the dinner rules. However, I do find it amusing to see them put a “green” on their plate, and eat three bites of something I know they wouldn’t choose for themselves. Habits of your childhood are hard to break.

I now have a 5 year old stepdaughter (almost 6). She falls into the very picky eater category. Because she shares time 50/50 between our house and time with her mom, I needed a strategy where I gained her buy-in and cooperation.  A hard line approach would only create conflict due to the inconsistency caused by her living in two households. A different situation calls for a different strategy. Here are some of the ways I’m using to help her learn to make healthy choices for herself regardless of where she is eating.

  1. Eat a Protein: I was sincerely concerned about this child’s health. She seemed to survive solely on carbs and juice. We insist that she eat something with protein at every meal. She is at the point where she knows this is expected and she does it without any fuss (most of the time). I’m willing to substitute the protein being served for an alternate as long as she tries it first. We are stressing that protein will help her grow and be strong and encouraging her to expand her list (see below) and make choices.  Veggies will also soon be insisted upon as her list of “likes” grows.
  2. No complaining: This poor child has been subjected to my “kid’s are starving” lecture enough times that she has learned to say “I’m not keen on it” instead of making a face or pitching a fit over its extreme nastiness. If she does complain and I start the lecture she quickly changes her tune just to avoid having to listen to it. An evil strategy I know, but hey, whatever works.
  3. Chart it. We have implemented a Chow Chart. The chart has category headers for Proteins, Veggies, Fruits, and Nuts & Seeds.  Each category lists food which she has tried and indicates whether she likes it or doesn’t care for it.  She is rewarded for each 25 “tries” with a trip to the dollar store for a prize. Since putting the Chow Chart in place, she has tried over 3 dozen food items that she would not have touched before… and surprise, surprise she has liked over 80% of them. Where she would not even touch a vegetable before she now enjoys spaghetti squash and baby spinach on a regular basis (her two favorites). Last night she ate butternut squash and okra but alas “was not keen on it.” Can’t win them all. The great thing is that we all show such interest in her opinion and then we share our thoughts on the food in question (our favorite way to have it prepared, etc.). She feels like she is part of a grown up conversation and is learning to contribute in positive ways.

While I believe that every child is different and we should recognize their needs as individuals, I do think that the dinner table is an area where you need a family policy that applies to everyone consistently. If you have a human garbage disposal and a picky eater, you might consider crafting a strategy that meets them in the middle.

The dinner table is a wonderful time for families to connect and encourage each other. Once you have removed the negative you can focus on making it a special time for your family.

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Encouraging “Happy” Days with Younger Children

I gave this blog the title “…with Younger Children” because children mature at different rates regardless of their age. Younger children have short attention spans and are typically very hard of hearing (or suffer from selective hearing syndrome). However, this is a crucial time for establishing firm boundaries and creating habits that will serve you both well as your child grows older.

Most children are eager to please and this age group is no exception. This simple system incorporates both a reward for good behavior and a consequence for bad behavior.

BUILD A FACE (Reward & Consequence System)Image

First, announce that you are going to make a craft with your child. Yeah! This will be fun and you will get to spend some time together. Tell your child that you will be making a face and see if they would like to do their own face, an animal, or something else of their choice. Then gather your materials such as paper plates, yarn for hair, buttons for nose, eyes, stickers, and markers/crayons.

On one paper plate you will draw a happy face. On a second paper plate, the face will be sad.  Glue or tape a string on the inside so it forms a loop for hanging, then tape or staple the two plates together so they face outward.

Hang the plate in a visible place in your home (fridge door, child’s door, etc).  When the child is have a good behavior day, have the happy face showing.  If they are showing poor behavior, turn the plate over to show the sad face.  Tell the child that when they show you good behavior, they can have the happy face showing again.

If your child moves beyond caring whether the face is happy or sad, you can provide incentives for staying on “happy” for a specified period.  For example, if your child stays on “happy” until lunch time, they get to have some special time with you or whatever rewards you generally use.  Then if they stay on “happy” until bedtime, they can have 20 minutes extra time before they have to go to bed (or again some other small reward of your choosing).  This way if they get a “sad” in the morning, they can still earn something in the afternoon.

You can take this system a step further by creating a chart that will track the “happy” and “sad” so they can earn rewards over the course of a week.  For example, 10 or more “happy” faces in a week earns an ice cream run with mom or dad to celebrate.

Thanks for reading. I hope you all have a “happy” week!

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Six Foundations of an Effective Discipline System

ImageI have to admit that I’ve always been a big fan of having a discipline system in place. Shooting from the hip in the heat of the moment was just too subjective based on your mood, emotions, or, let’s face it, how much sleep you got the night before.  By having a plan, no matter how you feel in the moment you have a clear cut way to address behavior in a calm and reasonable fashion.

As my kids grew older, the way I addressed discipline had to grow and change with them.  This means that we had many ways to reward and consequence behavior over the years.  My kids are now all grown “adults” with the youngest turning 19 this year and they would be quick to tell you which of those systems they liked (rewards) and which were not their favorite (consequences).

Based on my experience, here are a few things you may want to consider before deciding on a reward/consequence system for your kids.

  1. Personalize It. Your kids are unique individuals. Therefore what works for someone else may need some tweaking before it will be effective with your kids.  Also, age and maturity plays a factor in how you should approach your system. If you have a wide age range, you may need different systems for younger kids and second one for the older group.
  2. Balance It.  If you are only about consequences, your kids will get weary of it all. Motivate them with a system that rewards good behavior as well.  Oh, and make sure you follow through on those rewards or you will lose credible… and your system will break down quickly.
  3. Be Consistent with It. If you don’t commit to the system, don’t expect your kids to either. If you are very intentional about your consistency, within a few weeks it will be habit for both you and them.  It’s also important to hold your ground with a single warning. Getting into an argument with a 5 year old is not only impossible to win (and you will look and feel ridiculous), but it also breaks down your entire system. One warning – then apply the consequence. Period. No exceptions.
  4. Keep It Simple. If it’s complicated or requires a lot of policing on your part, it just won’t survive the first week. Post the rules and tracking system in a high traffic area so everyone is clear on what is expected and where they stand.
  5. Customize It. Write down the three most important things where your kids really need some work. Then build the system around revising that specific behavior.  For example, if you want them to be more respectful then have both a reward and a consequence in the system built around behaviors that demonstrate respect. Don’t try and create perfect children overnight. Pick and choose carefully where you want to see change then really focus in on those behaviors. Once you have some success you can redirect focus to other areas.
  6. Create Buy In.  Make sure your spouse is on the same page and understands what you are trying to accomplish. Better yet, make them part of the development process.  If they do not understand the system, the kids will quickly learn they have the means to circumvent it. Furthermore, providing the kids some input to consequences will give them little to argue with when they are facing those same consequences later.

Your next step will now be to find, tweak, and/or develop a system of rewards and consequences that will work for your family.  In upcoming blogs, I will share specifics on some of the most successful systems I have used with my family.

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Got Weeds? (…keep pulling!)

If you’ve spent any time pulling weeds, you know it is back breaking labor.  And, doesn’t it seem like they just pop right back up the next day?  Admittedly my landscape is usually an overgrown tangle of weeds and what used to be plants.  It’s a little embarrassing but at this point it is so far down on my list of priorities that it really doesn’t get much attention.  Of course, the longer I leave it, the more work it will take to get it back looking nice again.

On one rare occasion that I was actually pulling weeds, it occurred to me how much my adopted children are like a garden.  It seemed like weeds would “pop” out of nowhere and require pulling.  It was hard work and sometimes it seems like those weeds were sprouting up faster than I could pull them. It got hard at times to see the true beauty of the “flower” because they were hidden and choked out by the “weeds” of their former abuse and neglect. 

The truth is in today’s world of divorce and hurting families, these kinds of weeds are not exclusive to foster or adopted children.  Families are hurting and children are dealing with feelings of rejection, abandonment, and even neglect.

Just like my flower garden, which after some reasonably good effort on my part still looked pathetic, these kinds of weeds are not simply exterminated overnight.  It takes years of patient pulling and pruning before the fullest extent of beauty will be again unveiled.

One of my daughters was so shy when she came to me at 9 years old that it was debilitating.  When the door bell rang, she would hide under her bed to avoid whoever had come to the door.  When we were out in public she held onto the back of my shirt so she could hide behind me.  She would refuse any offers that required social interaction or would draw any kind of attention to her. 

Patiently I pulled those weeds (and watered and nurtured) discovering the fears and anxieties that drove her “weedy” behavior.  I learned that she was afraid of the doorbell and strangers because she was afraid that they were coming to take her away to live somewhere else.  Over the past 9 years I have watched my shy, scared choked out flower bloom into the strong, beautiful young woman she is today.  Turns out she wasn’t shy by nature at all.  In fact, she is the social butterfly of my entire garden.  Just a week ago I hugged her goodbye on the campus of the missionary school she will be attending the next three years… 600 miles from home.  I am so proud of the way she has chosen to follow God’s call to serve orphans around the world. 

Now

that

is

one

beautiful

flower!!

It’s easy to become discouraged, especially if there are many weeds in your garden.  I would encourage you to be patient.  Keep pulling those weeds, little-by-little each day, and soon you will look back and realize a beautiful transformation has taken place.  I did.

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